Trust Us, You Need a Bread Box
For the majority of people, the term “bread box” conjures up an antiquated image: a rustic wooden contraption better suited for Little House on the Prairie than the modern kitchen, or a hulking metal box that takes up too much countertop real estate. And while, yes, bread boxes can be a bit of a commitment when it comes to space, their ability to keep breads (and pastries, and other baked goods) fresh goes above and beyond, making them a “what’s old is new again” kitchen essential.
Bread boxes (or “bread bins” as they’re known in Great Britain) were commonplace until the middle part of the 20th Century, when buying commercial bread packed with preservatives gained favor over baking fresh bread at home. (This is why a bag of store-bought hot dog buns seems to never, ever go bad.) With the recent renaissance of artisanal breads, fresh grains and home baking, bread boxes—with their simple science and aesthetic charm— have become an unlikely darling of the movement.
So, how do these magical devices work to keep baked goods fresh? First, bread boxes allow bread to be kept at room temperature, which is preferable over refrigeration because a cooler environment actually speeds up bread’s drying out process. Next, the construction of a breadbox is unique in that each one has some form of ventilation built in—tiny holes, for instance, or breathable slats—which discourages condensation and, in turn, mold growth. (A lack of ventilation is why homemade bread wrapped in plastic molds quickly.) And finally, bread stored in bread boxes is less exposed to the stale-bread-inducing elements in the air, allowing it to retain its plush texture for as long as possible.
Anyone who’s ever spent a Saturday afternoon lovingly making a loaf of sourdough only to find it brittle and crouton-like (or covered in mold spots) by Monday knows that there are few things more disappointing. With a breadbox, most home-baked breads can stay fresh and buoyant for about a week, giving a person ample time to indulge in their creation.
There are plenty of different designs and price points from which to choose when it comes to selecting your breadbox, but the majority are big enough to hold what’s equal to one or two loaves of bread. There are wooden bread boxes with rattan roll-top lids that give off farmhouse vibes. There are metal bread boxes that scream “retro-chic.” Saving space? There are bread boxes that attach to the wall, keeping your precious countertops free and clear. There are ceramic bread boxes that feel like antiques—and many that are actually collectable. You can find a slew of funky ones on eBay, or even break out the toolbox to build your own. Myfavorite bread box comes in a rainbow of colors and helps to keep my homemade salt-rising bread supple and delicious until I can polish it off. (ThisBrabantia steel bread box is also very highly regarded.)
With a price point anywhere from $20 to upwards of $70, a breadbox can seem like a bit of an investment. But once you pull out that loaf of rosemary focaccia from your favorite local baker four days after buying it and it’s as fragrant and pillowy as ever? You’ll be a breadbox devotee, too.